My younger sister used to play on a local soccer team. I didn’t play, but I went to her games and loitered. I’d hang out in the nearby playgrounds with the other players’ siblings and play games like tag.
There was just one problem — interacting with strangers at every game meant introducing myself.
I have never much liked using my birth name. Jacob Dalton is an okay name in and of itself, but I’ve always avoided it because it just isn’t me. As a young child I borrowed names from fictional characters just to try them on. Several years later, I started picking random names to use when introducing myself to strangers.
At my sister’s soccer games, where no one knew me, this strategy typically presented no problems. During a game at one school, I could introduce myself to everyone as Alex. Then, another day, at a different school, I could introduce myself to a different group as Jack. Usually, there was no conflict.
Once, by chance, both, the “Alex” group and the “Jack” group, ended up on the same playground at the same time. I hadn’t anticipated such a turn of events. Eventually the topic of my name came up; they wanted to know what my real name was. I said it was Jim. For some reason, they believed me. As far as I know, they all still think that’s my name.
The names themselves were arbitrary. The important thing was that I chose them — even if only temporarily — and in doing so I created them for myself.
The act of creation is symbolically significant. When I write a program or build a table, I feel that the end result is more mine than it would have been if someone else had made it, because it came from me. I put some part of myself into it, and as a result it becomes more valuable to me.
Beyond that, names are special. My name is how I identify myself to others. It is a symbol of everything that I am. In creating my own name, I claim a portion of myself and my independence that I couldn’t fully claim with a name given to me by someone else.
For about two years, I have called myself Becquerel and introduced myself as Bec. I like Becquerel because it’s gender-neutral and relatively uncommon. Plus, it has an obvious short form built in. There’s also some interesting symbolism as the Becquerel is the standard unit of measurement for radioactive decay.
My name has been Becquerel for two years now, but only in casual settings. At the beginning of every class here, I have to decide whether or not to correct the teacher and risk confrontation. Even outside of class, strangers get oddly picky about the contents of my birth certificate, though the name my parents gave to a clump of cells is really none of their business. To resolve those issues, this summer I have begun the process of legally changing my name to Becquerel Jones. With my name legally changed, I can eliminate a lot of unnecessary confusion and just use my real name all the time.
I never liked using my birth name. My name is Becquerel Jones.